Top Pentagon leaders told Congress on Thursday that reports of Russia offering Taliban militants bounties for killing Americans were not corroborated by defense intelligence agencies, but said they are looking into it and the U.S. will respond if necessary. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said his military commanders heard initial reports on the the bounty issue in January and he first saw an intelligence paper about it in February. While the threats were taken seriously, he said they have not yet been found credible.
The Pentagon's top leaders are going before Congress for the first time in months to face a long list of controversies, including their differences with President Donald Trump over the handling of protests near the White House last month during unrest triggered by the killing of George Floyd in police hands. The House hearing Thursday will provide the first congressional testimony by Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, since March 4, when they appeared to discuss the administration's defense budget proposal. That was before the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic became apparent and before nationwide civil unrest threw the Pentagon's relations with Trump into crisis.
Criticized for inaction, President Donald Trump and top officials on Wednesday stepped up their defense of the administration's response to intelligence assessments that Russia offered bounties for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Trump's national security adviser said he had prepared a list of retaliatory options if the intelligence proved true. Trump, meanwhile, called the assessments a “hoax” and insisted anew he hadn't been briefed on them because the intelligence didn't rise to his level. However, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said both the CIA and Pentagon did pursue the leads and briefed international allies.
They didn't like it when then-candidate Donald Trump criticized John McCain for being captured in combat. They were angrier when Trump, as commander in chief, abandoned Kurdish allies in the Middle East. And they were upset again last month when he threatened to deploy troops against American protesters. Trump's relationship with the nation's military community has been frequently strained. But just four months before the November election, reports that he either ignored, or was unaware of, a Russian plot to kill U.S. troops could intensify the tension and create new political risks.
Military planes will conduct flyovers in a handful of major cities along the East Coast as part of this year's July Fourth celebration amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Pentagon says roughly 1,700 service members will support a salute to the "Great Cities of the American Revolution." T
Top officials in the White House were aware in early 2019 of classified intelligence indicating Russia was secretly offering bounties to the Taliban for the deaths of Americans, a full year earlier than has been previously reported, according to U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the intelligence. The assessment was included in at least one of President Donald Trump's written daily intelligence briefings at the time, according to the officials. Then-national security adviser John Bolton also told colleagues he briefed Trump on the intelligence assessment in March 2019.
Thousands of people in an area of western Myanmar where there have been clashes between the government and ethnic rebels have been fleeing from their villages over the past week after an evacuation order from officials. The Rakhine state government in an order last Tuesday instructed village administrators in Rathedaung township to tell residents to stay away from their homes due to military plans to conduct a "clearance operation" against the rebels.
President Donald Trump on Sunday denied that he was made aware of U.S. intelligence officials' conclusions that Russia secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing American troops in Afghanistan. The Trump administration was set to brief select members of Congress on the matter on Monday.
Wisconsin’s governor activated the National Guard on Wednesday to protect state properties after a night of violence that included the toppling of two statues outside the state Capitol, one of which commemorated an abolitionist Civil War hero. Protesters also attacked a state senator, threw a Molotov cocktail into a government building and attempted to break into the Capitol Tuesday night, only to be repelled by pepper spray from police stationed inside.
"The United States must be the only nation in the world that names military posts after traitors. The police killing of George Floyd has brought renewed attention to this absurd practice, in which U.S. Army and Army National Guard installations across the South bear the names of secessionist generals, most of them West Pointers, who fought to uphold slavery during the Civil War," write Andrew Bacevich and Danny Sjursen. "The moment to end this practice has arrived. The Army should take the opportunity to end this offensive tradition and ensure the namesakes of Army installations express the courage, fidelity and moral awareness that Americans expect of their soldiers."